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Without authority, police summon artist for questioning for burning name of God

Gregory Israel Abou was told to come in and explain his actions in a video art piece, even though police did not have the necessary okay from state prosecutors

Artist Gregory Israel Abou burnes a paper with the name Yahweh on it, in a video piece that caused an uproar (video screenshot)
Artist Gregory Israel Abou burnes a paper with the name Yahweh on it, in a video piece that caused an uproar (video screenshot)

Police recently summoned for questioning an artist who burned the name of god in a video art performance, despite not having the authority to do so, the Haaretz newspaper reported Thursday.

Gregory Israel Abou’s piece was on display for long months at the Ein Harod Museum of Art in northern Israel, until it caught media attention after a woman complained about it. The burning of a paper with the name Yahweh on it occurs in the final seconds of the 13-minute piece.

After causing a fracas, which included various religious figures condemning the act as blasphemous and even, in the words of Religious Zionism party chief Bezalel Smotrich, “barbaric antisemitism,” Abou agreed with the museum to take the piece down, saying he’d never meant to offend.

Still, Abou and the museum suffered abuse and threats online and on the phone after news of his work spread.

Abou was then summoned for questioning by police, supposedly under a law against causing “grievous offense to the beliefs or religious sensibilities” of an individual.

However, police must get approval from the state prosecution in order to launch an investigation on matters related to freedom of expression, something it did not do.

Abou, who was abroad when he was summoned, spoke to a lawyer and was never questioned. Police said the investigator had erred by summoning him without prosecutors’ approval, and that regulations on the matter had been reemphasized.

Meanwhile, the case material had been sent to the state prosecution for review, police said.

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